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Writer, soldier, thinker, and science fiction lover. I just can't seem to find a way to divide my adventurous self of constant outdoor activity and exercise from my nerdy self playing games and going to conventions. So why not just be both?

 I am a young professional living out of Tallahassee, Florida for the past five years. I have been on a deployment with the United States Army and continue to work outside of my other occupations to better myself mentally and physically. My passion for writing is driven by my passion for everything I find entertaining in life, and of course by my friends and family.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A New Kind of War (It Begins)

"ETA, 10 mikes."
 Clark Duncan sat as still as he could as the helicopter bumped in the turbulence. It had not even been six hours earlier that his team had been alerted to a rapidly growing crisis at a military research installation. Several things set this operation apart from previous operations. They were activated directly from a general, General Michael D. Giacchino, the same man who they would report directly to through the rest of the operation. The operation order they had sat through was short, and to the point with far too many areas left to question. But so was the nature of their work.
Situation: A remote military research installation has stopped their hourly reports. Suspect possible compromise, and insider cooperation.
  Friendly Forces: Department of Defense contractors and military personnel.
  Enemy Forces: Unknown.
Mission: Task Force Dog conducts reconnaissance around and within Pate Installation no later than 2300 hrs to confirm or deny hostile presence at Pate Installation.
 That was the first difficult part. An American installation, on American soil was possibly compromised. But it could not be by a major faction, the Soviets, as Clark saw it, wouldn't start a major hot conflict by initiating on a small installation that, until yesterday, Clark didn't even know existed. No other viable option seemed right. The Chinese may attempt covert operations, but to knock out a facility on American soil was an incident they wouldn't want, especially with another nuclear power. 
 So that left rogue or terrorist groups conducting the act. The group would have to have some level of extreme intelligence. After all, only a few knew of the Pate Installation, and they would need inside knowledge to make the facility go dark so quickly. That eliminated 90 percent of possible candidates, there was no way the Japanese Red Army could gather that sort of coordination, or event the Red Army Faction unless it was heavily supported by Soviet special operations. No major operators from South America were known to have operational capabilities beyond their areas of interest, so there was not an option from that region. That would leave only the possibility of a new group rising, likely an accumulation of special operations from the Soviets, if not directly backed by them, maybe with resources within the United States.
 The Huey bumped again as it pushed its way through the blizzard outside.
Execution: Commander's intent is positive identification of any and all threats to Pate Installation. 
 Task Force Dog will be deployed in two chalks of 10 men. Utilizing the approaching blizzard, Task Force Dog will conduct a low altitude jump in two locations three klicks apart. The northern most team will begin reconnaissance of the outside perimeter with a focus on Named Areas of Interest 1, 3, and 5. The southern most team will move in and infiltrate Pate Installation to continue mission and conduct reconnaissance of Named Areas of Interest 2 and 4. 
 Reports will be conducted every half hour. 
 The extreme trust and dedication to the men and training, even the advanced technology they had at their hands did not change how unusual it was to deploy with only ten soldiers.  A Task Force, no matter how elite wasn't able to secure such a large compound alone. Now there was a caveat for follow on forces, but it never stated who, when, or where, and most importantly how they would come in. They were suppose to just entrust the General had that worked out.
 Clark tapped his headset, he could still hear the electronic wine inside, there just hadn't been any traffic. Clark swung open the fuselage door. Crisp freezing air blasted in, snow clambered in escaping the free fall from above. The weather would have never permitted flying if it wasn't for an actual operation. Even then the hazards of flying were too great unless in the most critical situations. How could this be such a situation?
 There was a cloud break. The other helicopter was visible through a grey blast from the snow. There came a swift streak from afar. The far helicopter lit up in a bright ball of bright white and orange light. A small star under the cover of the storm.
"Where'd that come from?!" A voice screamed over the net. A burning wreckage dropped into the clouds below.
"Go, jump, go!" Clark screamed into his headset as he jumped from the helicopter himself. The freezing cold air whipped at his face. He tried to read the altimeter on his vest. Fog had covered the dial. He looked up. There came a boom. And falling from the sky above him came another flaming wreckage. Clark no longer felt the whip of the air the sting from the cold. He just felt his mouth, open, in a silent scream as he continued to fall.
 Looking back at his own descent he was washed by the sudden fear that the ground may look as the clouds and his fall would end in a sudden dramatic stop. He could go crashing into the ground and never even know he was looking at the ground. He took a chance, he pulled his rip cord. There was a moment of shock and he was yanked up violently. His parachute deployed, the white canopy above whistled with air as it fully opened. He looked back down between his feet and saw green fins growing rapidly larger.
 "Shit..." Clark yanked hard on the steering toggle, pulling right too late, he slapped the top of the first tree, then slammed into the next trunk. He felt the tugs at his cords as his chute began to make contact as well. Snow and pine clattered down on him. Bark sank into his white snow uniform. Branches scratched at Clark's face, tugged at his body, banged his knees, and elbows. He began to free fall now, his chute tattered, and hung up. He swung around. Slammed a trunk. Something fell. He was pulled back by the cords. More pine in his face. His back smacked a branch. Something above snapped. He was sliding down through pines again, faster. He flailed his hands down in front of him, kicking his legs out away from under him.
 He plummeted into a sudden cold stop.
 There was coldness, a chill that worsened and numbed. The darkness felt warm, and enticing. Clark found himself thinking back to being a child.
 He had grown up with a single mother. His father had been alive when he was too young to remember. Men in uniform always came to talk to him and his mother. But it was his alone time with his mother he loved. She was an older mother compared to others, not that there were many for him to compare her to. But the grey took its time touching her hair, it remained a lively black that accented her eyes well. The smell of wet dew on the morning grass as his mother brewed more ice tea for the hot afternoons. The way she would pat his shoulder in love and appreciation. A pat at the baseball game. A pat after school. A pat for good grades.
A pat.
 Clark's eyes fluttered open. Snow obscured most of his vision. A chill had sank to his bones. A numbness had settled across the right sight of his face. Snow had rallied across his face and body.
"Captain, you alright?" Another pat came to his shoulder. Clark pressed himself up, first to his knees where he waited for a second, and then up to his feet.
"Yeah, yeah just took a hard fall."
"That's the understatement of the year, you took a nose dive off the ugly tree and hit every tree on the way down."
"Yeah? How do I look?"
"As ugly as before." Randal Sparrow's bearded face was coated with snow and ice already with his pure teeth almost blending in.  Clark couldn't stop from smiling which he tried to hide back as he began to push up to his feet. Randal was Clark's communication expert, a sergeant, but invaluable for his experience with various different equipment and ensuring constant communication with headquarters, more so than the rest of the squad was.
"Were there any others?"
 There was a pause with Randal that Clark disliked more than he should have. "I don't know. I only saw one other chute. I couldn't see much in the weather though."
 Clark looked off through the snow fall that was becoming more aggressive.
 "They'll be coming for us, we need to move." Clark unclasped his M4 from his side. Randal kept his at the low ready. Both were fit with large suppressors, despite being specialized soldiers, their optics were basic, 2x zoom optics with the iron sights still accessible due to the extreme environment. It was fortunate that Randal had made it, and Clark almost found it to be cosmic luck that the communication and signal expert had made it. "Have you tried to raise higher yet?"
 "No, I didn't want to risk my signal being picked up too close to the crash site. I'll try once we are in the clear."
 "Agreed, let's move." Clark took the first step. His body was sore from the thrashing he had taken on his way down. Randal didn't keep a space between them as they moved.
 "Doesn't that missile bother you?"
 "That they had to have known we were coming?"
 "That it came out of the sky, it was air to air."
 "You can't be sure of that, the weather concealed it's origins."
 "I know I saw a flash, that was air to air."  
 Clark's hand flew up in a fist. Solid, stationary, it stayed there, and both stayed motionless. The hand signal to freeze, something had caught Clark's eye. The heavy ice fog swirled clumsily between the heavy trees. The thick outline of a soldier broke the fog. The figure moved cautiously, sweeping left and right, scanning the area. There came another stepping out from the blind of fog. Both Clark and Randal went down into the snow.
 The two crawled up, edging up to see the intruders. There were four they could count. Moving, slowly, scanning the area and terrain. Heavy military arctic uniforms created bulky outlines that blended easily with the environment.
 "They look American." Randal said in such a hushed whisper, Clark mistook it for his own thoughts Their gear was American, at least it appeared to be. The only random part to the soldiers they observed was their weaponry was not American, it wasn't anything they had seen. It was thick, boxy, it looked like it fitted better in a child's sci-fi comic than in the hands of an actual soldier.
 "I think we should assume they're hostile."
 "That'd be smart." Came Randal's response, an all too common 'Randal' response to whatever he saw as obvious.
 Clark began to scoot back when Randal's hand stopped him. He looked back out at the soldiers. There were more spread out.
 "There has to be at least a platoon out there."
 "Likely more, we need to start moving."
 They both back up, sliding gently along a crest to put crest between them and soldiers. Clark looked up, there fog had made it impossible to see past the half way mark of the trees. That would be useful, but the fresh snow on the ground created a straight line to wherever they went. They needed to get onto solid ground, lose their trail.
 "We need to get higher, onto to rock. Near the compound I recall there being steep inclines on the south east." He hoped the combination of the terrain and vegetation would be advantageous. He hoped. "We need to head North to reach the southern side."
 They both were already moving. A path, perhaps a game trail during summer allowed quick descent along the trees. More figures appeared, cutting out their evasion route. They both darted off to the right, tumbling down  and sliding in the snow. The soldiers had appeared along the trail out of the snow's fog like ghosts just materializing into solid matter.
 Clark hated giving up the high ground, but they were forced with going down a draw further to avoid the two enveloping patrols.
 Thick brushes, barren from the cold closed in on them as they followed their ever steepening path. The brush pulled and yanked at their clothing, catching at their gear, and snapping under their movement. The foot of the hill leveled off, and there stood a patrol heading straight up towards them. They both crouched down behind the thick wiry shrubbery.
 "Where the hell are they coming from?" Randal hissed. The ice fog did play with their eyes, the soldiers seemed to just materialize before them each time.
 "The weather gave them concealment to move in on the crash sites." Clark and Randal both leaned forward to observe the soldiers below.  They now had two patrols closing in on their backs, and third coming up directly in front of them. Clark couldn't help but feel it was far too coordinated.
 Movement caught Clark's eye. Is that a goddamn wolf? his mind spun. Just within eye sight was a dog along the ridge to his left. The pattern and mannerism made him think wolf, but it was far too small to be a wolf, big, but not a wolf. It looked right at him before turning and skirting around the ridge.  Looking over, Randal had not seen the dog. He nudged at Randal.
 "We'll follow that ridge." Randal literally chewed his cheek as he chewed the thought.
 "That'd be smart."  Clark wondered if Randal would think that if he knew he had based the route off seeing the dog take it. But the animal had clearly been skittish, and also trying to escape, there had to be a way to evade the patrols.
 The incline was steep, but they hurried along the ridge anyways. The snow became thinner as they rounded the ridge. Moving fast, Clark tried to see where the dog had gone with the prints, but the snow was getting thinner and thinner. The ridge became rocky, and ice lined the rocks. The dog had gone north, and up back on top of an adjacent hill. Clark followed the suspected path of the dog, and in turn Randal followed Clark close by.
 The prints were becoming harder and harder to follow as the rocks took over and the trees grew thicker where they went.
 Randal yanked on Clark's arm. He hadn't noticed, too concerned about following trails to see along the far ridge was another, smaller patrol. Three moved along the top ridge, moving away from them, but had he kept moving, they would have been spotted immediately.
 "Damn ghost army moving around us." Randal said giving Clark a firm pat on his back to begin moving again.
 Clark looked up the incline and caught the tail end movement of the dog again, slinking between the rocks and over the top of the hill under the cover of the trees. Clark followed the evasive animal's trail.
 As they came to the top, Clark went to a crawl trying to prevent silhouetting himself as he came to the top. The dog had take a sharp right along the rocks behind the patrol they had just seen. Another patrol moved along the ridge to their left, an entire fireteam.
 Clark scrambled up, going higher. The trees dispersed around them, becoming more distant between each interval. The dog was no where to be seen now. The patrols grew farther away. Clark and Randal reached the cusp of a peak, the rocks were jagged, and n trees gathered here. The ice fog had cleared in the valley opposite. Below, they could see the Pate Installation.
 Randal's breath was heavy, and ragged from the steep climb up. Large plumes of breath came from him.
 "What exactly what this place again?"
 "Research and disposal facility."
 "That's a big-ass disposal facility." Clark thought so too, too big.
 "Try and reach higher."
 "That'd be smart."

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